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Hist Sci Med. 1999 Oct-Dec;33(4):333-42.

La radiologie est entree avant l'electricite dans les hopitaux de Paris.

[Article in French]


The paper looks at the period from 1896 to the beginning of the 20th century and uses as example the installation of radiological equipment by Antoine Beclere, at his own cost, in his department of medicine at the Hopital Tenon, and later at the Hopital Saint-Antoine. The important role of Antoine Beclere in French radiology is recalled as well as his visionary concept of the medical applications of X-rays. The solutions found to ensure the running of the indispensable high tension generators in the two hospitals without electricity are evoked: first, a hand operated electrostatic machine, then an induction coil energized by an accumulator battery that had to be recharched outside. At the end of 1899 at Saint-Antoine, the situation is improved by the decision of the "Conseil de Surveillance" (the Safety Committee) to hook up the radiological equipment to the dynamos which produces electricity for the maternity ward. The problem is definitively solved in 1904, eight years after the first radiological examinations, by the construction of an electric power plant in the hospital. An overview of the electricity available in the Paris region at that time, with the multiplicity of electric power plants, and the great variety of currents provided, largely explains why the hospitals hesitated to use those services. Finally, diverse solutions adopted by other hospitals using radiology are examined, which include the uniting of radiology and photography departments run by "radiographers" who were not physicians, such as A. Londe at the Hopital La Salpetriere, G. Contremoulins at Necker, and Ch. Vaillant at Beaudelocque. In conclusion, the author explains why Antoine Beclere is chosen to illustrate this presentation. His name has been left to posterity because of his considerable accomplishments, which led to French diagnostic and therapeutic radiology being recognized as a medical speciality. His teaching of French and foreign physicians and his seminal work in the field earned him an international reputation and numerous honors. A hospital of the "Assistance Publique a Paris" now bears his name.

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